For Chris Carroll, the situation is simple.
Situated in fourth place in the District 8-3A standings with a one-game lead over Lampasas, Gatesville is on the verge of returning to the postseason following a one-year absence. While there are still three games remaining in the regular season, only one truly matters to Gatesville’s head coach.
“If we beat Llano, its over and we are in the playoffs,” Carroll said of tonight’s game. “If we lose, I believe there is still a very real possibility that we go to the playoffs because Lampasas has murderer’s row of our district with the three best teams remaining. It would be tough for them to win two of those — I’m not saying they can’t — but I don’t want to leave it up to what Lampasas does. I want Gatesville to take care of business at Llano.”
Gatesville post Kayla McGiboney shares the mentality.
“If we don’t beat Llano, it will be a struggle to get in,” the junior said.
Like the Lady Badgers, Gatesville still must play a pair of teams ranked in the current Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Class 3A poll — No. 24 Liberty Hill and No. 25 Brownwood — before concluding the regular season, making tonight’s game against the Lady Yellowjackets, who are winless through the first seven games of district, critical.
After leading by 13 points at halftime in the first encounter between the squads, the Lady Hornets (11-12, 3-4) narrowly defeated Llano, needing a game-winning jumper by Randi Farney with six seconds remaining in overtime to secure the 48-46 victory.
Carroll, however, believes his team has improved in the weeks since, and although there have been some setbacks, everything is setting up for the Lady Hornets to produce a huge road victory.
“We need to avoid turnovers, have long possessions, and I think we can score on them in transition if we get defensive stops,” he said. “If we can not just bottom out in any one quarter, then I feel pretty good about our chances, but they are not going to make it easy on us by any stretch.”
Gatesville owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Lampasas (11-15, 2-5) after sweeping the series, meaning the Lady Badgers would have to pull off a few upsets for an opportunity to jump the Lady Hornets in the standings. History is not on Lampasas’ side, though.
The Lady Badgers were defeated in all three games against Brownwood, Burnet and Liberty Hill in the first round of district play, losing by a combined 45 points. Facing the Lady Lions tonight on the road, Lampasas would be officially eliminated from the postseason race with a loss and a Gatesville win against Llano.
With a potential trip to the playoffs looming, guard Sarah Latham does not intend to let the chance to practically clinch a spot slip away.
“Beating Llano is really important,” the senior said. “You don’t want to lose a game you are supposed to win, and it would be nice to get it out of the way so we can focus on the playoffs.”
More than simply reaching the playoffs, Carroll believes a win would be a defining moment for the program.
“This is my fourth year here, and this would give us three playoff trips in four years,” he said. “For us to be in this district and be able to get in the playoffs, to me it would just be a great step forward.
“That’s what we want to be. We want to be consistently going to the playoffs every year and competing once we get there.”